Posted by: sean | February 28, 2009

Violent men take the kingdom by force

Adolf Harnack, Militia Christi: The Christian Religion and the Military in the First Three Centuries, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981), p. 29. [This is translation of Militia Christi: Die christliche Religion und der Soldatenstand in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1905).]

The saying that now men of violence take the kingdom of heaven by force (Matt. 11:12; cf. Luke 16:16) has been understood in different ways. Some say that Jesus speaks about this fact disapprovingly; others explain that what is happening has his approval. I do not doubt that the latter view is correct. (That is quite certain as soon as one translates v. 12a not “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence” but “the kingdom of heaven is coming with force.”) Given the context, the other explanation is too complicated. The meaning is that because the kingdom of heaven now breaks in with force one must forcibly take hold of it in order to win it for oneself and not let it go by. There is something warlike in the image but not in the reality.

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